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More on Sibling Rivalry

Sibling Rivalry is something parents ask about all the time. Recently, a Facebook mom came to me for help when she heard her son call his younger sister” dumb” when she was trying to count backwards. Here’s how I handle this kind of behavior:

Think back… nothing feels better than to eliminate the competition, so to speak (put down a younger sib in front of parents and you suddenly look smart and win!). It’s primitive, I know, but it’s a part of all of us to some extent. So the trick is to do something more positive about it while not paying it too much attention (and thus accidentally rewarding and encouraging it in the future). What I would do is not get into every moment of their back-and-forth or every sib skirmish. Let most of them fly by – a few build character.

Instead, lay out clearly the lines that can’t be crossed (certain words, overly aggressive tone, put downs/name calling that pick on a person’s body or appearance or abilities…), and forget trying to “teach” boys about being nicer with words. They’ve heard these well-intentioned lectures before. Best to tell them it’s a choice if they want to be mean or bully or inappropriate with their words, but it will cost them something real and automatic. No warnings or second chances: fifteen minutes in their room;  loss of dessert (if it happens at a meal);  being excused early from an activity, or chipping off screen time by 10 minute intervals.

Always stay calm and collected (if you show too much emotion, he’ll likely cue in that it’s worth trying more of in the future.) Check out my YouTube video on sib rivalry too at


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